Monday, 29 October 2007

Inspiring examples...

This has been a funny old week for me. Its been a week since I posted anything other than auction updates, yet I have felt the need to write for several days. The right topic just wouldn't come to me. Or if it did, something got in the way. Either it was too negative (blame it on a stressful week?) or circumstances transpired against me. I was all set to Blog about an amusing article on the SCA the other day, and then the original blog post/article I was responding too was removed, so down went that idea. Then I saw the Flaming Hot topic of conversation for this week 'Idols'. (Creative idols that is, not the TV show!)
"Who do you admire? Aspire to emulate? Look to as the artisan you wish to be? In setting goals and reaching higher where do you find your benchmarks? "
Wow, that is a topic and a half.
Perhaps in line with my slightly negative vibe this week, my thoughts did not instantly turn to a long list of artists who's work I admire and wish to emulate. Instead, a personal experience came to mind, where I had been disappointed in a personal interaction with someone whose work I had admired very much. And it occurred to me - how does our reaction to the person affect our reaction to the work? Can we be truly inspired by the artwork of someone who has disappointed us as people?
To answer that question, I think I need to look at how I am affected by 'inspiration' itself. Do I look at others work in order to try and create something similar? Or just to be challenged to extend myself and try something new - improve my skills? Or am I simply drawn to work that I find aesthetically beautiful, just to look, enjoy, and then move on? Thinking about it, I think for me it is more the latter. I rarely try to imitate specific styles or techniques I witness, even if they are in tutorial style books, designed to be followed. I tend to use my collection of lampworking books, art books, favourite websites, show and tell on the forums, collection of favourite images etc in much the same way I now use my cook books.
I have a great collection of cook books. And I'm a sucker for a new one. As long as it has high production values and big glossy pictures. But I am trying to curb my cook book buying impulse, as I rarely cook from recipes any more. But I do browse through cookbooks for inspiration, and then close the book, feeling inspired to try a certain ingredient or technique.
That is how the artwork of others inspires me. The appeal of an unusual colour scheme, creative use of a new technique or tool. Subconsciously they all affect me I'm sure, but I rarely, if ever, walk away from viewing the work of my peers with a concrete idea that I wish to go and try. It's more of a gradual absorption process perhaps...
So, can I still be inspired by the artwork of an idol who has proved to have 'feet of clay' in my eyes? Well, I guess in this interpretation, yes I can. I can still see the beauty and skill in their work. Who knows... perhaps it will make me a more effective critic of their work - to have the rose coloured glasses removed. After all, we need an undistorted view to truly appreciate art anyway, don't we?

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Latest Beads on Offer

I have 2 new auctions up this morning... 'Fairy Garden', and 'Rippled Granite'. Things are really slow at the moment, but I'm trying to keep a slow steady stream of new work up. I have 3 new sets ready to photograph this week, one that I'm especially happy with. I've been playing with Bullseye odd lot colours... mmmm yummy!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Chocolate Heaven

I've been really good with my eating habits the last couple of weeks. Taking lunch to work everyday, eating breakfast, not drinking soft drink etc. But yesterday we had a great sunday outing, ending at the wonderful Koko Black in Lygon st. We saw 2 movies at imax - Deep Sea 3D which was great, and Dinosaurs: Giants of Patagonia 3D, which was good, but not as engaging as the Sea Monsters one we saw a few weeks ago. It has been great to make use of the teacher previews at the Melbourne Museum imax. We added morning tea at Koko this weekend. We shared a Belgian Spoil - mini pots of choc ice-cream and choc mousse, a shortbread, a mini choc cake, and 2 handmade chocolates. I had an ice chocolate as well, which was made with homemade choc and vanilla ice-cream. Wow, talk about chocolate heaven.... That should last me another few chocky free weeks. :)
To change the subject slightly - what is it with Women and shoes? or handbags? I just don't get the attraction. I mean, I can appreciate pretty shoes aesthetically - I wouldn't be much of an artists if I couldn't, I guess. But I just cannot see the attraction of spending so much money and time on finding the perfect shoe...and don't even get me started on the discomfort of so many of them. I was reading The Impatient Blogger last week, and after reading all the comments, I realised I am most definitely in the minority. So, any body else out there not get the female shoe fetish? Just Beads is a bit quiet lately, so I don't have any new auctions up yet, just a few relists. I have a lot of new stuff to post... so lookout for new pics this week, but I might give the current lot a few more days first. Hopefully we will see a rise for the Christmas season soon.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Practice makes perfect... Or Does it?

The topic for discussion on Flaming Hot this week is 'Perfecting Your Craft'. How do I work at improving my skills as a beadmaker, or in other fields for that matter?
I suppose as in a lot of other things I do, my approach has been eclectic. I have heard, and appreciated, all the old adages about practice, practice, practice - but I have to admit, I struggle to make myself repeat things until I 'get' them. Repeated practice definitely helps - I always notice an improvement in my work when I have a major deadline that keeps me at the torch more than usual (like when I once made 220 period beads as door tokens for an SCA event). But while I know practicing skills is important, I think that my improvement in those instances reflects more the fact that I am a part-time torcher, and sometimes don't get to the studio as often as I'd like. Since I have forced myself to become more regular with auctions, and therefore torch more often, and be more productive, that steep learning curve just from repeated application is reduced.
But, I digress. Getting back to my original comment, I am really bad at making myself practice something. I tend to try something new...and if it works, great! -that's done and I can move on. And if it doesn't, well, I cant do that yet, I'll try again next month, or next year. And in most cases, that actually works for me - I seem to be able to process things mentally when my skill levels are there... and not before.
For example, I have only made about 6 hollow beads ever. First time I tried, I got a melted mess. Put that idea away. Then I tried again, and was still enough of a newbie that I announced success - even though now, when I look at that bead, it's not so much hollow, as has a really big bubble in the middle. :) Then I tried again, possibly another year later, and I turned out 3 almost perfect hollows, one with a small spacer bead trapped inside. I did not really practice them, but I got my skills to a level where the process that I had understood in theory, actually worked in practice. I then left the technique aside again, as I definitely used to jump around everywhere trying new things, and once 'mastered' (tongue firmly in cheek there) I'd be on to the next thing. Recently I panicked and wondered if I could actually make hollow beads at all, as it had been about a year. I tried again, and made 2 small matching hollows, without any trouble. Not only had I remembered, but I had made them smaller, which I find quite a bit harder.
So, it seems that perhaps I don't process things quite like some other people. Anybody else out there who does this?
I am a person who learns by doing and watching. I'm not great at following written instructions. So, I love that the Internet provides an arena for so many video and pictorial tutorials, and actual classes in person are great. And that's another issue entirely... The community of lampworkers in Oz is so small, and so relatively new, that there are only a handful of people teaching in Australia. We have recently begun to get visiting instructors from overseas, but classes are generally over $800 for 2 days, which is a cost I cannot justify. I was so lucky to be able to attend the ISGB Gathering this year, where the practical demonstrations and open torch sessions provide such a great chance to learn. And I was very fortunate that I was able to get a last minute entry into a class with Anastasia, at a very affordable price.
I think self reflection is very important also. I try to be critical of the work I produce, and aim to continually improve. And I am trying to get better at practicing new skills, rather than waiting for them just to appear :) .

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Coming in Three's...

I have three new auctions to show you today - two focals and a set. It's nice being able to try focals out on JB, with the postal savings from sending them all over together. It's all a big experiment though - I have no idea how focals are going to go for me, so keep your fingers crossed for me (or uncross them long enough to click and bid! :) ). Another thing coming in three's this week is job interviews. The end of this week is going to be a bit stressful and hectic, as I have 3 interviews in 2 days. Eek! I'm not going to get too excited about any of them point counting unhatched avians. There are two ICT Leader/eLearning roles, and one Art/Tech Key Learning Area leader. So, while your fingers are crossed anyway, think positive job vibes for me, OK?
'Shaken Not Stirred' 'Amethyst Blooms'
'Smoke Get's in Your Eyes' 'Desert Blooms'

Monday, 15 October 2007

Blog Action Day - The Environment

Today is Blog Action Day. Well, in Australia it is, not quite there in USA yet. Today the aim is to get millions of bloggers around the world talking about the same issue - the environment. I posted a great Al Gore video a few months ago, follow the link to check it out. I was thrilled to hear he won a Nobel prize this week. I think he has done some amazing work raising awareness about climate change, and making the issues understandable. An Inconvenient Truth was a very powerful movie. But what I really wanted to talk about is the smaller measures that we can all take to make a difference. I'm sure we all have some not too environmentally friendly habits (I know we use the clothes dryer way too much), and there are some things we can all improve. My husband and I are switching all our lightglobes to the new compact fluorescents. We have done almost every room, we just need a couple more. The major difficulty for us was access. We have high ceilings, and we usually use a snazzy 50c tool on the end of a broomstick to change our globes. Problem is, the new ones don't fit. But, as they promise we should only have to change them once every 3 years, we figured the effort was worth it. We are also trying to remember to turn applicances off, rather than standby. The TV, and the computer for example. Usually my computer is on hibernate all of the time, including over night, but I have been trying to remember to shut down lately.
What meausres have you been taking to be more environmentally aware lately? Share in the comments.... Here is a video by Plain English on the new lighbulbs...

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Without further ado...

I wasn't expecting to post again tonight, but I've been scheduling auctions and I accidentally started more than I intended tonight (or this morning US time). So, I figured I might as well blog them while I'm thinking of it. So, without further ado, here is 'Tropical Blend' and 'Desert Blooms'.Desert Blooms continues the series of wildflower beads I have been working on recently. A slightly different direction, thinking more of Australian desert landscapes than lush fields of flowers. After all, most of the country is in severe drought at the moment. I think we might be seeing more of this style in the future (I guess I'll see how the auction goes!).

Dance of Love the name of my latest offering on Just Beads. This month on Modern Savages our theme is Surrealism, so here is my response to Joan Miro's 'Ballerina II'. If you would like to read more about this theme and my inspiration, checkout my posts at Modern Savages.

Today I demonstrated at the Victorian Blacksmith Convention. I go every year. It's a great chance to show people lampworking - spread a little education and glass love. Every year I take a selection of jewellery, assuming Jane Public is more likely to want ready to wear. This year I was caught unawares, and as I rarely make jewellery anymore (as most of my beads sell online) I decided to take all my 'orphans' and see what happened. I also marked down all my jewellery (and mine is already a lot cheaper than similar work elsewhere) hoping to shift some stuff that I've had around for awhile. Wouldn't you know, I barely sold any jewellery, bargain or no (just 2 pendants), but the loose beads went like hotcakes. I'm not about to retire anytime soon, but it paid for the order of odd lot bullseye glass I made last week.

So, I'm a pretty happy camper at the moment. And I just heard that my beads just arrived at Lisa's - so I can schedule a bunch of new auctions for this week. So, stay tuned for a new direction from me - focal beads at auction (now that postal costs wont make them unattainable!)

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Lights, Camera, Action!

The blog topic on Flaming Hot this week is about photographing beads for sale. I used to be a bit haphazard about the style of my bead photos, but after experimenting quite a bit over the years, I am now fairly consistent with the style I like. A lot of bead artists photograph their beads as strands, sometimes even with crystals or silver spacers included. That works really well for some people, but I have never felt 100% comfortable using that approach. I feel like I am putting preconceived ideas into the heads of potential buyers, as to how the beads could be used in jewellery. And I know that jewellery designers can come up with some amazingly creative ways to string beads (Just check out my friend Lisa's site for an example!). So, I have discovered that I am happier with a more random display of my beads, what appears to be a haphazard arrangement, (but that usually took ages to arrange!), generally combined with some clear overhead shots of the beads arranged flat, so that all the details are clear. I also think its really important to ensure the holes/ends can be seen clearly (as these can often be 'problem areas' on newbie beads), and both sides of major focals. I love being able to include multiple images, to show a range of combinations and viewpoints. I'm so glad I finally worked out how to use a html template for the auctions sites, so that I can upload as many images as I like, while only paying for one image to be hosted. The other thing about the way I photograph beads... I am a shocking procrastinator. I only seem to take photos when I have a great pile of beads cleaned and ready to go, and then I force myself to my little 'studio' set up. I have a very small, portable, fabric softbox to diffuse my lights - high wattage from the hardware store, and they are incredibly bright and hot. It is physically uncomfortable due to heat and glare, and I have burnt myself on the lights more than once. So, I do have an excuse for putting it off... really.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Finally Catching Up

I have been torching a lot these holidays. But I've been a bit slow to get some new auctions up. Mainly because I'm stockpiling beads, to be sent to my friend Lisa in Arizona. She has kindly agreed to post my USA sales for me, to cut down on postage costs for my customers. Of course, it means those auctions will only be available in the US - would be crazy to post them back here again afterwards :) . So, when they go off to her next week, I'll have lots of new items up for auction. In the meantime, I've put two new sets up that I'm keeping here, one on Just Beads and one on Ebay.
'Some Like It Hot' 'Opal's Fire'

A career of change?

They say that students we teach now will have several careers throughout their lifetime (and some that don’t yet exist) so there is a definite challenge there in how we prepare them for their working life. But even middle aged adults in the workforce now are changing careers on average about 3 times. And there are some inherent challenges to changing jobs that we might not always consider. Penelope Trunk at Brazen Careerist talks about planning for career changes in advance, specifically by putting money aside so you can afford to face the pay cut that is often part and parcel of changing careers. I think for a lot of people, this is much easier said than done. It’s human nature to live to your means. I have worked in several different fields in my life, and I think the life experiences you gain are incredibly valuable and there is a lot of opportunity for previous experiences to be immensely valuable in a new role. Those experiences, however, don’t necessarily have concrete value to a new employer. I guess I was relatively lucky. When I made a major career change approximately 7 years ago, from photography to teaching, I did not have to take a cut in pay. What I did ‘lose’ however, was the 8 years of teaching experience I could not gain while I was working as a photographer. Those years that would have equated to salary and position in my new career. Whilst I value all of the employment experiences I have had, I do sometimes now regret that lost time, and how it may be affecting my career. (Not that I had a lot of choice with over 300 teachers made redundant the year I graduated…but that’s another story for another day.) People will hesitate to make career changes due to financial concerns. As Trunk states, “I could live on a lot less money and be fine” is a lot easier said than done. Actually, I guess I have been lucky once again on that count. If you had told me 5 years ago that we could more than halve our income and continue with minimal changes to our lifestyle, I would have said you were crazy. But when my husband left corporate banking after 18 years and started his own business, that is just what we did. And the positive changes far outweigh any monetary issues. Sometimes a new direction is the way to go, and you just have to bite the bullet and be very Nike about the whole thing.(Just Do It). And sometimes change is forced upon you, and you have to roll with the punches. So sometimes I wonder about this prophesied future where everyone will change careers as much as 7 times in their working life. That’s a lot of new beginnings to face. Maybe we all need to consider some of Trunk’s advice about being prepared….

Monday, 1 October 2007

Lazy Days...

I am on holidays at the moment - term break. And I have been taking it easy, reading, blogging (My other 2 blogs) and torching. I always plan to stock up on my inventory on holidays, but I sometimes find it hard to get going. I have torched quite a bit this week, but I have been experimenting, playing around with some new ideas, which isn't always hugely productive. But, I will have new beads up on auction this week. I have also been busy job hunting last week, and lots more applications to write this week. The whole process is very ironic. You have to build yourself up in your application, and be the most self confident you can be... and at the same time, the whole process is one that can very quickly strip your confidence away. Interviews and applications, its all very stressful. Especially when you are torn between the jobs you want to do to fulfil your career goals, and the ones you have to consider for financial reasons ... and all the associated politics. Ugh, I think I'll just head back to the torch where I can forget all that. Yep, Queen of Procrastination, that's me! I have just realised I didn't post a pic of my most recent auction. Its a Modern Savages set, 'Wildflowers in Bloom', and it has been re-listed this week.